July 16, 2007

The road to Morocco

I am off and running for the next few weeks.

I fly to Morocco with my daughter, who finished her studies at Columbia having read all about Africa and colonialism, never alas, to have set foot on the continent.

So it will be a big bonding trip for mom and her first baby.

It will also be hot, and we will fill our eyes, ears and mouths with new delights, coming back to fill in pages. Silly perhaps, but we hope to understand better what separates all of us in the world. My belief is that if we visit, eat, sit and talk, the world shrinks and and animosity can melt.

So here we go.

July 13, 2007

Beggar With Clean Socks

Hot summer had taken a holiday; a little spring breeze tickled me, pushed tendrils or evaporated sweat and the world was out in summer profusion. Bare midriffs, street food, bikes and busy sidewalks at lunchtime.

I was walking on the wide swath of 23rd Street before it comes to Fifth Avenue. My gym is here and I try to come as often as life permits. I was still walking my bike; as I decided whether or not to allow myself the indulgence of an eight-dollar salad or if it was better to peddle home to leftovers.

As I walked east, I saw a young dark-eyed woman sitting with her back against a post box; she was holding a sign, the ubiquitous kind written on cardboard in black ink describing sadness, woe and poverty.

She sat cross-legged with her dark, ocular pools cast downward. I walked by. I stopped. She had on the cleanest socks I had ever seen. They were navy blue and white and the contrast between the two colors popped. We are all cautioned against grifters, and con artists who ply the trade of playing on our emotions to extract funds for nefarious business. We know that young women or babies, all can be utilized to maximize the effect, and so I wondered.

I sat watching this girl, she never spoke, her plea was silent and intense; I saw another woman stop to regard this mendicant. I walked over to her. She was older than I am, gray hair and walked with a cane. She was very beautiful and upright, an elegant woman. We both now watched together; it was as if we had slipped into the cast of an impromptu play and tried to quickly come up to speed on the back-story.

I turned and said, “I always wonder about these folks, who is real and who not. And how do we know?” The woman with the cane turned to me, “Yes, I do as well, but what puzzles me about this one is...” then we both said, as if on cue “Those socks are SO CLEAN!”

We talked some more about wanting to help, but that if you gave everything away how would you know where and when and to whom and then who would take care of you? I said I was going to ask her if I could purchase her some lunch from the cart whose aroma was wafting over to us and I was sure was reaching the young cross-legged woman as well.

I approached her and inquired. Yes, she would like food. No, she couldn’t walk with me to pick what she wanted, as a woman had promised to come back to her spot and give her a job. She had shiny black hair tied back in a ponytail, those dark eyes and clean socks. Her accent confused me; I asked if she spoke French, she said her mother did, but she spoke Romanian.

I walked to the cart and bought a combo platter and a bottle of water. Whether she was shaming the passersby or not, it is still lovely to be offered free lunch and someone who stops to inquire about our state of being.

We all need that, clean socks or dirty.

July 12, 2007

A small lie

Yesterday I tried to ascertain what would be interesting about my life, what might cross over to be that ubiquitous moment and I was overwhelmed with watching. I saw myself lie to a stranger about the bounty in my life because I felt embarrassed.

I was standing outside a public garden in Greenwich Village. There was a rather tattered man also peering in; he was sketching in a small book. I was standing astride my green, 1968 Raleigh bike waiting to meet another writer to discuss a project. I was early, as I often am, because riding a bike in Manhattan makes you punctual because all you have to do is peddle a little faster and there you are, but that is another story and not the lie I told.

I asked the man what he was sketching. Not a good sign when you can’t tell from looking really, but I am preternaturally chatty. He replied, “Oh I love that shed, I have drawn it so many times.”

I looked, it was a pre-fab grey shed for tools tucked in the back of roses and weeping cherries. Maybe he loved the verdant vegetation, but when I took a concerned look; in fact he had just roughed out the shed alone in green crayon.

“What are you doing?” he continued the conversation toss.

“Oh, I am just garden fantasizing.”

He took the ball and tossed back. “Oh I don’t do that enough, maybe if I did, fantasized about having a garden then I WOULD have one.”

“I think they call it visualization--seeing things you want to make manifest, but I like fantasizing, too.”

Now the lie.

He asked, “Do you have a garden?”

I guess because I felt guilty about the small five-acre farm purchased in the Hudson Valley, on credit, nearly two years ago. I said, “ Oh yes, I have a small garden, but not this opulent.” The garden in question was .3 acres, I had just read that on a sign and was basking in how much more land I had when the conversation began.

Why did I feel the need to downgrade my incredible luck and good fortune? As I walked away from him, he was still sketching and I chose to focus on the positive phrase I had uttered, “Yes, I do have a garden.” It was a magical sentence, and yet I made myself feel bad because I felt I had to lie to this stranger, in order to not make myself look so spoiled.

Why did I do this? And as a correlative, why do we inflate silly things to make ourselves feel, look or seem better in encounters with strangers on a train, or bus or bank line? For me, it causes me to wonder if who I am will ever be enough, or correct - just as I am - at the moment at the garden gate or bank line?

July 11, 2007

Signs

I am always looking for signs. Not, “right turn 100 feet ahead” but, danger; do not go on the second date. Quit now and avoid years of heartache.To simply, try the fish.

I do not sit inert waiting for things to happen.

I don’t throw bones or read prophetic books auguring auspicious days.

Instead I look at everything.

I believe that information abounds. Personal, private codes bounce along next to us waiting to cheer and embolden our lives.

I also have an MBA from Yale. I say this because I am a regular analytical, thinking person. I also have a complete croyence in magic, witchcraft, the vibration of the spheres; call it what you will. Serendipity or coincidence.

So today, I struggled in a humid funk attempting to put myself on a single, productive path. Watch me this morning. I am up early. I have stripped beds and have laundry piles, I have begun cleaning closets for the renters who arrive to assume control of my little country house a day after I return from a fortnight in Morocco, so I need to get organized. I am carrying two pills in one hand, a stack of books in the other. The cat is curling around my legs. And by the time I descend the stair, mind you, this is not a grand house, I have lost the pills and my train of thought. I now want to clean the porch. There is laundry everywhere from yesterday's crisis (the cats had been using the laundry as a litter) and EVERYTHING had to be washed twice.

So I decide to make coffee, but on the way to get the grinds, I see the bird feeder needs to be filled and then the humidifier needs to be emptied and the cat box was overfilled and needs to be swept up. And once again I don’t know what I am doing. But I see that I put the pills down by the phone as I picked up the mail and magazines.

Well, that went well.

My mother spent her life telling me I was a slob. And I spent the first quarter century buying into her characterisation, and the second, being as my kids say, obsessive compulsive. (Think twice about educating them, really.) Now I want things neat, folded, clean, tidy, designed and - if I can achieve it without hiring out - fabulous. So I am whipping around and my wandering attention is taken by the small bird’s nest on the front porch.

It is a cup made of twigs and mud, all surrounded by vibrant green moss. I have seen inside these nests. They are lined with animal fur. Quite cozy, made by black-capped chickadees. Now there are three or four hatchlings vying for the same maybe 3-inch diameter nest. But they are very well behaved. When I come near they are quiet. How do the bird mothers teach them? When the mother approaches they open their mouths. I know it is instinct, but here comes the SIGN.

I see that there are two birds alternating attendance. One, and then other, not quite identical birds. I go to my bird book and see that both male and female chickadees do look the same and both tend the brood. My chest heaves. An involuntary sigh and sense of calm replaces the humid air that hangs on my shoulders and coats my hair still wet from last night’s swimming. It is the sign.

I had my babies with a man from a breed who was not a nurturer. He had fancy plumage and a cock-strutting walk; he did not always come home to the nest I so lovingly filled with animal fur and designer sheets. I too often bickered with him, squawked, and pulled his feathers and mine in humiliation and rage. It was me who flew home to the fledglings and filled their open mouths with goodies and words and magic. But when they were small and I was 42, I changed that.

I left the strutting cock and fell in love with a black-capped chickadee. A beautiful, strong loving bird who flies with me to do everything. He feeds children, and fixes the nest and still I often squawk at him. I did it yesterday for not noticing the wretched cat’s box.

And so when the calm washed me moments ago; I stopped in my tracks and intoned: THIS NEST - THESE TWO BIRDS WORKING TOGETHER ON YOUR PORCH is a SIGN! Notice how you have changed your life and sit down. And so I made a cup of strong black coffee using my favourite method, a folded paper towel draped over a big cup, and I sat down to capture a sign.

July 10, 2007

Starting the blog

When you decide that you might have words, thoughts and emotions to share with readers on a daily basis what does that mean? Beyond writing in a journal, where you can say, I have new and detested hairs sprouting out of my mole that does seem to be really growing. Or, I hate my children sometimes, most of us have no place to venture forth, out loud with that. Or maybe I never should have had children, as I fear I have passed my insanity on to them, let alone the quirks and downfalls of their now abhored father.

What can we say in a blog that borders on honesty, but creeps over into a universality that vibrates with other readers? Readers who are, let’s say, women old enough to know better, or maybe old enough, but still learning. Maybe these middle-aged-mambo dancing women have children, either hated or beloved, or both in alternating moments who want to decode them in order to love them better, so these kids will read this blog. We can all hope that some of these gals have spouses who want in further, who want insight and clues, tid-bits that might lead to AHHH HA moments and they will creep onto our pages.

Perhaps if we were all more transparent,there really could be d├ętente among the generations, sexes, or cultures. Honestly do I think a BLOG that unravels the musings of one wacky writer, parsing moments of hilarity and heinousness will facilitate world peace? NO, I am not delusional, much as my ex will disagree, really I am not, but when we share our fear, or joy we move closer to elevating ourselves to more. I don’t mean more in the sense of a bigger house, or a smaller body. I mean the real more that involves sanity and sanctity.

So welcome, come step behind the curtain and please do pay attention to this woman behind the curtain, because unlike the Wizard of Oz, I do want you to see the strings and machinations of all we do to make magic in our lives and I invite you to share with us what you do, think and see that takes your breath away.